”Does the anti-matter from Angels and Daemons movie really exists?’‘, ”Can we create small black holes with particles accelerators?” or, for the most surprising ones “Did you considered the secondary vertexes during your analysis?”
These are some questions pupils and students from Chicago asked us during the first French-American Science Festival organized by the French Embassy on 14 October 2011.
We were four people from the CEA IRFU/SPP to go in the Northwestern University to talk about science, physics and especially for us, particle physics. It was really a success because a lot of people came to understand what could be the job of a particle physicist, and the organizing team was pretty enthusiastic too.
But the story began pretty bad actually. I arrived the previous day during the night in Chicago O’Hare with my colleague Christophe Royon. We were exhausted when arriving at the hotel. Nevertheless, the next day we went, or planed to go, to downtown Chicago, but the fact is we didn’t take the highway and it took almost two hours to find the Northwestern University.
Hopefully for us, Fabrice Couderc, Emilien Chapon and Verena were really efficient and professional – at the arrival of the pupils and students (which was actually our arrival too), experiments, computers, movies were set up and available for the audience.
Christophe and Emilien were responsible most of the time for the talks given in the conference room next to the stand. It was an occasion to gather all interested pupils and explain to them how all of the particle stuff works. The conference room was also linked live to the CERN in Geneva. Young people were able to ask questions from one thousand kilometers from there and better understand what they could have heard from us in the building hall.
For Fabrice (who did an amazing job of vulgarization since the early morning), Verena, Emilien and I were located in the big hall of the building, where all other people showed their experiments and talked about their field of research (such as chemistry and biology).
The pupils came with their teacher most of the time by group of 15 people. Of course, the most difficult part is to begin your explanation to start with. We were helped with posters of LHC which showed pretty awesome pictures from the movie Angels and Demons, pictures of the accelerators LHC and Tevatron, pictures of quarks which could sounds weird but was really useful to explain of what the matter is composed on.
As far as I am concerned, it was really nice and interesting to get back to vulgarization for a day. My QD readers already know that I was involved in vulgarization work during my pre-Ph.D. studies in France, so I recover quite easily my ”teacher’s skills”. Pupils seemed to be interested and, for those who were not, it was easy for me to let them focus on – in that case, the best thing to do is to directly ask them questions about what you are saying and showing them that they have the basis of understanding these complicated ideas in particle physics. They focused again and enjoyed what they learn after that.
In the afternoon, it was the time for talks for all of us. Mrs. Martial-Gros started with the inaugural talk for this first French-American French festival to introduce the next speakers such as Pierre Léna from the french Académie des Sciences, who made a really interesting talk on the way of learning the science in school for young children.
The day was concluded with a cocktail party given by the French dmbassy to thank all the participants of this great day which symbolize, more than a friendly science vulgarization session, but the great French-American friendship that we were really happy to be part of.
We would like to thank the french Ambassy in Chicago and their staff to make this day possible and the CEA of Saclay.